Thursday, September 29, 2005

Biography, Part 4!

OK, this installment, as I continue with my grade school memories, will focus on television!

I know when I was very young, like a toddler, that my favorite show was Fury, a show about a horse... I know this because I used to have one of those rocking horses on springs that I named Fury (although my mom tells me I couldn't pronounce the "F" very well, so it came out "Pury").

I know I was an enthusiast of Saturday morning cartoons, especially the super-hero shows that came out in the late 1960s, starting with Filmation's Superman, later joined by Batman and Aquaman! Naturally, I was also a big fan of the Spider-Man and Fantastic Four cartoons that followed, as well.

I didn't watch the Marvel Super-Heroes cartoons as a kid, because they were never shown in Washington State, so far as I know.

I also was a big fan of Space Ghost, Birdman, and the Herculoids... and Shazzan! too!

Actually, it seems that there were basically three animation companies (the top three, it seems) whose programs would be worth checking out... Filmation, Hanna-Barbera, and Krofft. I would always give at least one show from each of these studios a shot -- although I think I first recognized the Filmation look before the others (you'd think that Pufnstuf and Lidsville and Bugaloos would've been similar enough that I'd pick up on it, but it took a while, it seems).

Of course, I was at the right age to latch on to Scooby-Doo when it debuted, although once the show mutated beyond the Scooby-Doo Movies, and introduced Scrappy and other relatives, I stopped watching it entirely!

Any Saturday morning show that featured dinosaurs would be a must-see, naturally... so Valley of the Dinosaurs and Land of the Lost were absolute must-watch shows. Anything sci-fi would also get my attention... and yeah, shows that featured musical groups would be on my watch list, too!

So, you can gather from that I watched the Archies cartoons, as well as the Beatles, Osmonds, and Jackson Five shows... Star Trek, Space Academy, Ark II...

Well, you probably have the idea.

I remember weekday afternoons, when there'd be some programs on that were for after-school watching... usually hosted by some local character. Channel 11 had Brakeman Bill, who had Crazy Donkey as his sidekick. He'd have local kids on his show from time to time, and he'd show cartoons, too.

His biggest competition, fortunately, wasn't on in the afternoons, it was in the mornings... J.P. Patches is an institution in the Puget Sound area... J.P. was a clown who lived in the city dump, and his girlfriend was Gertrude (a man in drag, also a clown), and his arch-foe was Boris S. Wart. Also along for the ride was Ketchikan, the Animal Man! J.P. was hilarious, and he showed quite a few cartoons himself.

A later host of kids programs was when Channel 13 started broadcasting... and their afternoon character was Flash Blaiden, a super-hero character.

I think both Flash and Brakeman Bill, at different times, would show, instead of cartoons, movie serial chapters! So I was exposed to stuff like the Flash Gordon series, as well as the various Rocketman shows... but the only superhero serials that were shown weren't the Batman or Superman serials... just the Captain America one. Bizarre, that.

Later, Channel 13 would have Captain Seatac, and Channel 11 would have a Ranger Charlie and Roscoe (the most bizarre situation occured there... you think changing Darrins on Betwitched took getting used to? The original Ranger Charlie was a rather portly balding man in his late 40s... he went away, and it was just Roscoe the Racoon puppet hosting for a month... then there was a new Ranger Charlie... a 20-something hot young babe!). But those were during my high school years, so those don't count, do they?

Jon

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Bicycling...

So, in case you hadn't read prior entries, I've been riding my bike to work lately. It hasn't been quite as bad as I was expecting... I mean, I knew I could do it, I just expected I'd be much more tired afterwards.

Unfortunately, the bike is pretty cheap... and tomorrow morning, before I head to work, I'll have to tighten up the gearshifts, because they keep loosening.

I'm sure I'm getting plenty of good exercise doing this... but to be completely honest, I'm looking forward to getting the brakes done on the car, so I have a choice in the matter.

Thursday, it's apparently supposed to rain around here... and if it does, I'll have a decision to make in the morning... ride, or take the bus. Either way, I'll get wet on the way to work. However... since Thursdays tend to be late nights, chances are, I'll end up calling Jessi for a ride home from work by the time I'm finished there.

Anyway... tomorrow morning, I'll be posting another installment of my biography, which will focus either on comic book memories, or I'll be going through some TV memories.

Jon

Biography, Part 3!

Continuing with the childhood memories from grade school...

I mentioned being into writing as a kid... I have two specific memories concerning that I'll start this installment by sharing.

Firstly, in one grade -- probably second or third -- my glass was given an assignment to write a story about a time machine. Now, as I mentioned, I was into science-fiction, so I knew what a time machine was, and I wrote a tale involving travelling back to Washington crossing the Delaware, with the bizarre turn of events of a crocodile or alligator attacking the boat (so I wasn't up on where they could be found... it was second or third grade!).

I remember that one story a fellow classmate wrote was about a clock. Obviously, this kid was unclear about the concept. I still remember his name, but I won't embarrass him by saying it here.

Another creative writing assignment (probably around the time of the presidential elections, the one that put Nixon in the White House) was called "What I Would Do If I Were President." Now, my grasp on economic realties was shaky at best, but apparently, what I wrote for that assignment impressed my teacher enough that mine was the only story turned in that was read to the entire class... and my teacher didn't tell anyone else who wrote it until after she'd read the entire thing. It was tough keeping a poker face while she read it, I'll tell you!

I mentioned creating my own crappy comics as a kid... but there were some I made that didn't involve my drawing them... Instead, I cut pictures out of comics and glued them on my paper! If I had any idea what I was doing... ruining comics like that.

I was far from the only kid on my block who was ruining his comic books, however. The next door neighbors had three kids, and the oldest kid had the biggest comic book collection of anyone in the neighborhood... and he had some great stuff, too. But what he would do to his comics was a shame.

He'd find a picture that he particuarlly liked, and placing a piece of carbon paper and a sheet of typing paper behind the page, he'd trace the image using a ball point pen, and then color the copied image with colored pencils.

You can almost picture the condition of the book plummeting, can't you?

Still... thanks to this kid, and his obsession with collecting comics stuff, I was able to get a lot of free Slurpees -- when they had the comic character cups, he'd take several of us with him to the 7-Eleven, and buy us all Slurpees, but we'd have to give him the cups!

So... let's see... any other grade school memories to share before moving on to Junior High? Oh, yeah, there are a few.

I was always tall for my age in grade school -- easily the tallest boy in my classes. One would think that I'd have become the class bully, but my parents had told me time and time again that I shouldn't fight... so I didn't, and wouldn't... even if I felt justified in it.

So there I am, tallest boy in the class, and I won't fight. I also wasn't particuarlly athletically inclined, either (I couldn't climb the rope in gym class, couldn't do a few other things, too). Naturally, some kids whose parents were not so picky about whether or not their kids fought felt that it was appropriate to pick on me. So the last few years of grade school, and even the first half of junior high, weren't the best years of my life. Actually, it wouldn't be until high school again before I started feeling like I wasn't the lowest of the low at school.

Anyway... this one kid apparently took great delight in tormenting me. I remember many a day after school he'd be waiting for me (I still have no clue what his reasons were), and I'd have to run like hell to avoid him. This did nothing for my self-esteem, obviously.

This continued, as I said, pretty much through junior high, although not with the same kid.

I think it was in fifth or sixth grade that I decided I wanted to learn to play the violin -- huge mistake. I picked the wrong stringed instrument, and after my initial enthusiasm wore off, it was drudgery, no fun at all.

OK, moving on to junior high school. Junior High for me began at Hunt Junior High, which was pretty close to the house we lived in at the time -- closer than Geiger was, certainly! But I only went there for half a year. My family was too big for the house we lived in, so we made one final move as a family -- to the house my parents currently live in, in the "city" of University Place.

For those of you unfamiliar with Tacoma, Washington and its environs and surroundings, it's hard to describe the relationship of UP to Tacoma, but I'll try to explain as best as I can. Tacoma lies about halfway between Seattle and Olympia (where I currently live, it's on the south end of the Puget Sound). So, to the west, Tacoma is bounded by water. Then there's Interstate 5, which runs north and south, and that comes down and kind of cuts between the western 2/3 of the city and the eastern 1/3. Clear so far? Immediately north of Tacoma is the city of Fife, which basically seems to exist to provide food and hotels for people travelling the interstate. If you head east from Fife for about five or six miles or so, you'll find Puyallup, which is the location of the Western Washington Fair, the largest fair in the state.

Highway 16 comes off of I-5 as it's about halfway through Tacoma, and cuts over to the Narrows, crossing there as the Narrows Bridge (the second bridge of that name... you may have heard of "Galloping Gertie"? That's the predecessor). The Narrows Bridge, as I mentioned, is close to the house we lived in on Meyers.

OK, clear so far? Now, all the way to the northern tip of where Tacoma stretches to the Sound is Point Defiance Park. There's a street that starts pretty close to there (well, it starts a few miles south of there) called Jackson, that changes its name to Bridgeport Way where Highway 16 crosses under it, and it's Bridgeport all the way south until it meets up with I-5 (which is going through at an angle). It terminates at McChord Air Force Base, and Fort Lewis is immediately south of that.

Confused yet? Wait... Bridgeport Way runs through University Place (which has no University in it... apparently they were hoping for the University of Puget Sound to be built there, but then it wasn't, and the name was already set in stone), which has on the west the Puget Sound, and on the east is Fircrest. South of the UP is Lakewood, which goes the rest of the way to I-5.

Now, either you have a clear idea of where University Place is, or you don't, and are trying to find a map somewhere that'll clear it up. And I'll leave you there for this installment!

Jon

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Writing More...

OK, I did promise I'd write more tonight... but frankly, I'm feeling a bit too tired to be too creative tonight, so my apologies.

I'll try to write a bit in the morning.

Jon

Just a Quick Note...

Will likely be blogging more later tonight, but I just had to mention/brag that, as of today, I've bicycled to work both yesterday and today, with plans to do so the rest of the week!

OK, so it's only 3 miles each way... but it's uphill both ways (well, it's downhill both ways, too... there are several hills in each direction, but coming home has the worst one).

Quite a bit of exercise for me there... especially yesterday, since I also had to run to the bank and the post office before going to work (effectively doubling the morning commute to 6 miles).

Why the heck am I doing this? Just for the exercise? Well, that's a benefit, for certain... but the fact of the matter is, the brakes on my car need to be worked on, and it'll be at least this weekend before there are funds to pay for that!

Jon

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Biography, Part 2!

Continuing the thrilling story of my life so far...

When I left off, I was beginning first grade, and we'd moved to our third house in Tacoma.

Just general memories of my grade school years... I remember being into drawing, and showing an aptitude for writing (I always got A's when creative writing was required for an assignment). I was fairly good at math, too... but geography and history -- especially the way it was taught -- bored me to death, and subsequently, those grades weren't so hot. I was reading at a college level by the time I was in 4th grade, at least... reading stuff like "Cyborg" by Martin Cadin (the basis for the Six Million Dollar Man) and Pierre Boulle's "Planet of the Apes" (much more literary than the movie based on it). Summer reading programs at the library? Blew through 'em quickly.

I always had an interest in comics, all through these years, and like most kids, I made up my own characters, thinly-disguised versions of DC and Marvel characters... there was Super-Duper Man (named after the Super-Duper Market, a grocery store in the town in South Dakota where my grandmother lived -- we used to take car trips to the Dakotas every summer to visit relatives... so far as the name of the town goes... it's the one where the big motorcycle races are every year, and I'm blanking on the name right now, dammit!), and there was Magic Man, and Elastic Man, and so on. I drew cheesy comics with these guys, and even sold some of them to the neighbor kids!

What I enjoyed most about going to the Dakotas was that I'd always get some new comics to read on the trip... one year was the year of the JLA/JSA/Seven Soldiers of Victory story, and while it took some getting used to, eventually I caught on to the whole Earth-1/Earth-2 thing.

When I wasn't drawing comics with my own characters, I was using other characters. Jack In The Box was just opening in Tacoma, and they had animated commercials with Jack, the Shakes (fuzzy creatres who had a rock band, and were very easy for kids to draw), and other characters... and I did a bunch of comics with the Shakes.

Mego super-heroes were a part of my childhood, too, as you can well imagine, and so were G.I. Joe's. In fact, the two toy lines crossed over, and I even started creating super-hero costumes for the G.I. Joe figures! I distinctly remember making an Iron Man costume for one, which used a McDonald's french fry container for the chestplate.

I was also into puppetry as a kid... I'm not sure if I learned to sew making my own puppets, or making G.I. Joe costumes.

I recall that I made a Captain Marvel (Shazam) costume for one of my G.I. Joe's, and proceeded to make what I called a "movie" with it -- said movie being some pictures taken with my Kodak Instamatic! I don't think I have any of those photos these days, nor do I have the ones I took with my brother's Six Million Dollar man action figure.

I also got into Star Trek, which was then showing five nights a week on the local station. We'd missed out on Trek in its original run, because Mom thought it was going to be monster of the week, like Outer Limits (well, the first episode aired was "Man Trap," after all). Another show I missed in its original run was Land of the Giants. Strangely, I remember being allowed to see Laugh-In on occasion!

Monster movies were another big part of my childhood. The library's summer program involved showing edited-down versions of the classic Frankenstein movies, as well as other monster and non-monster movies, plus Channel 11 (who was showing Star Trek) also had their sci-fi theatre program, which guaranteed the SF stuff was making it on the air! Channel 7 had Nightmare Theatre on Friday and Saturday nights at 11:30 or so, but I only got to watch these when I stayed the night at a friend's house (which I tried to do often).

Ventriloquism was another part of my childhood... I remember seeing Paul Winchell and Jerry Mahoney, as well as Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy. So one Christmas I wanted my own ventriloquist dummy, and my parents got me a Danny O'Day. Was I familiar with Danny? Nope... neither he nor Farfel the Dog. In fact, I didn't see those two performed until I was much older, and their old Nestle commercials were being shown!

My comic books came from three sources in those days... maybe four! On the way home from school, I passed by a drug store and a 7-Eleven, and both stores carried comics. Of course, the 7-Eleven also had Slurpees, and for a while, every summer they gave away free comics character cups with the Slurpees! I also could get comics cheap at the annual sixth graders' "junk sale," which raised money for camp. Sometimes I'd use my lunch money to buy comics there! I was also able to get comics at garage sales, too (I was introduced to garage sales at an early age).

I've told you about the Gov-Mart/Steranko History of Comics story before... so I'll skip that.

My first Beatles records were probably garage sale finds, and they were 45s... I remember Help!/I'm Down, Act Naturally, and a few others... and I have no idea what happened to them. We also had a few Archies records, but most of them were the "free" records that were put on the back of cereal boxes, and you could cut them out and listen to them on any record player!

Well, that's enough of this for now... I'll continue the grade school reminiscences another time!

Jon